Feuding Sherman brothers made top Disney songs
As long as they concentrated on music, Robert B. Sherman and brother Richard M. Sherman got along famously, creating a string of hits for movies including “Mary Poppins,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “The Parent Trap.” But the Oscar-winning songwriters responsible for such cheerful tunes as “Chim Chim-Cheree” barely communicated outside the confines of their studio and forbade their families from socializing with each other.
“The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story,” which screened Saturday at the San Francisco International Film Festival and will begin a theatrical run May 22, explores the duo’s odd dynamic from the vantage point of their kids. Jeff Sherman, son of 83-year-old Robert B. Sherman, and Gregg Sherman, son of Richard M. Sherman, 80, grew up seven blocks apart in Beverly Hills.
“We were told not to speak to each other,” recalls Jeff, who directed and produced the film with cousin Gregg. “We were not supposed to mix with the other side of the family. We knew there was animosity, but we didn’t know the details.”
Meeting for the first time in their 40s, the Sherman offspring became curious about the discord and decided to roll cameras when their fathers reunited for a Broadway adaptation of “Mary Poppins.”
“We thought we could build a bridge that could sustain more dialogue and openness between them and that they could reconnect as brothers,” Gregg Sherman says. “It didn’t quite happen.”
The brothers continue to keep their distance. Robert lives in London, Richard in Los Angeles. But the filmmakers had an additional motivation in making “The Boys.”
“The equally important thing for us is that even though millions of people can sing these songs by heart, nobody knows who the Sherman brothers are,” Gregg says. “We wanted to show the depth of their personalities and connect the men to this amazing body of work.”